Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Palace of the Jade Sorceress

My bi-weekly D&D 5th edition campaign came to a conclusion and I am currently not playing in any online games. I have gone from playing at least once a week to not playing at all.

So I have been looking over some of the many solo game systems I have picked up over the years.  A few weeks ago it was 4 Against Darkness. This time I take a look at Scarlet Heroes.

I got Scarlet Heroes by supporting the Kickstarter. It arrived as a digital product, I looked through it and then forgot about it. But now that I am looking for something solo to play I pulled it out again.

I did not use the solo rules for a test game. I used the main intent of the rules which is 1 player - 1 gamemaster. This was more interesting to me. I find purely solo games lack a plot or demand a lot from the player to develop a plot. I am also intrigued by the assertion that Scarlet Heroes can be used by a single player to play in classic published adventures. This is different from having a single player controlling several PCs or a single player supported by several henchmen. In this case, it is a single player with a single character running through an adventure with encounters designed to challenge 6-10 characters.

I chose one of my favorite adventures, B3 Palace of the Silver Princess. It was the first published adventure I put players through as a dungeon master back in 1982. I have not looked at it in years so I did not have it memorized. To make the challenge really difficult I created a 1st level magic-user character, Ti Yasho. Traditionally, B/X magic-users are a real challenge to play at low levels. I had to be honest with myself and attempt to make decision that I thought the character would make and not what I could see in the text of the adventure. So even though the text mentions a treasure in the head of the statue I could decide that my character would not think to look.

I meshed the Red Tide setting of Scarlet Heroes with the original background of the published adventure to get, Palace of the Jade Sorceress.

For many years the Jade Sorcerer ruled the island of Respite on the edge of the encroaching Red Tide. His powerful sorcery keeping the Red Tide at bay. In return, he demanded a reasonable tribute from the villages on the island. Two years ago the Jade Sorcerer finally passed away from old age. His young daughter Argentia took his place on the throne. Protection of the island of Respite fell to her. Called the Jade Sorceress upon sitting on the throne, Argentia has proven to be a capable sorcerer. The Red Tide continued to be kept at bay.

As a powerful, unmarried woman, Argentia was pursued by many suitors. Most of whom brought her expensive gifts in hopes of earning her hand in marriage. But all failed in their quest. Recently, a wealthy suitor rode through the local village of Haven and up to the palace. Rumours told that he presented Argentia with an enormous ruby which he called “My Lady’s Heart”.

At midnight of the night that Argentia was presented the ruby, disaster struck. There was an enormous loud explosion at the palace. The villagers of Haven raced outside of their homes to see what had happened. Suddenly, the red mist began to seep into the valley for the first time and it enveloped the palace. Within a few days, bands of goblinoids began to terrorize the valley, seemingly coming out of the mist. The crops began to fail and the livestock grew sick. The first wave of refugees began to leave the valley. Can Respite be saved?

My heroic magic-user Ti Yasho came to Haven to fulfill his destiny (as he saw it) of being a hero. As he approached the Palace he found the way was blocked by the red mist. Then it suddenly parted letting him in through the gatehouse. Once inside the gatehouse, the portcullis dropped trapping him in the Palace.

Trapped in the Gatehouse. Ti Yasho faces two skeletons.

Ti Yasho did reasonably well but ultimately failed. I might have been better served to have rolled up a 2nd or 3rd level magic-user. Attempting to get through the dungeon on just 4 hit points proved to be too difficult. The published adventure was designed for 6-10 adventurers of 1-3 level. I have had 3 players successfully complete the adventure in the past using the Basic Rules.

Ti Yasho did get almost entirely through the first level of the dungeon. He killed 2 skeletons in the gatehouse and bribed a giant rat with food. He killed 2 goblins in the pantry causing the remaining 3 to run away. At this point, he was down to 2 hit points and was actively attempting to avoid trouble. He eventually was forced into a fight with 2 living crystal statues and had to use Defy death to get away. After that encounter, he had 1 hp so he locked himself in a storeroom and slept 8 hours to get 1 hp back. Setting out again he managed to kill the mad guardsman Travis and his wolf but was down to 1 hp again and it got him killed by troglodytes right near the final room of the first level. Defy death did not work the second time.

Ti Yasho found that his Fray die was his most successful attack. Magic-users are the only class allowed to use their fray die against stronger creatures. This proved essential.

I would like to try it again with either a thief or a fighter. I think something shorter that will allow them to level up before they take on something big like B1-B3.

It is, of course, not the same as roleplaying. But you get what you put into it. It was interesting and given I am not playing at least it was a sort of role-playing game experience.

Ti Yasho, apprentice magic-user

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